Why Your Goals Should Be Specific


You may not realize it, but if you’re goal isn’t defined specifically enough, that could be a hindrance to achieve your goals

Have you ever thought about why high performers consistently achieve their goals while some people merely talk about their dreams? The second group loves mentioning their goals but rarely takes action if at all.

Setting and achieving goals is a great way to motivate and focus yourself towards achieving something significant. However, it’s easy to overlook the importance of detailed goal setting. Eventually, this can leave us feeling unfulfilled.

If you have a general goal, it’s difficult to pinpoint the steps needed to achieve your goal.

In order for a goal to be successful, it must also have a timeline and be specific. For example, if you want to get rich, the goal is not specific enough for a couple reasons. because there are many ways in which you can accomplish this.

There’s nothing to show for because of the vague expectations of what you want to achieve.

The first step to achieving any goal is to make it specific. This ensures that you are working towards something tangible and achievable.

Your personal goals must be specific to have a high chance of success. 

In fact, one of the main attributing factors to unsuccessful personal goals attainment, is a lack of specifics. You don’t need to map out every single detail, but a well-defined goal will serve as a map to your pursuit. 

So, what are the advantages of having specific personal goals?

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Specific Goals Help You Stay Accountable and on the Right Track

Being specific helps you remain accountable. Why? Because you recognize your core responsibility in achieving it. Accountability in this case is not static but is in constant flow. 

Specific goals provide a sense of direction and guidance. They give you an idea of what needs to be done and how it should be done. Furthermore, they prevent you from becoming distracted by other tasks which do not contribute to your desired outcome.

When you take ownership of your role in meeting your objectives, not because you must but  because you want to, you ultimately make better decisions that propel your actions. These decisions can look like discipline, willingness to learn and be better, and seeking help when and where necessary.

Specific Goals Help You Develop Personal Mastery

One of the major motivations for creating specific goals is that you build character through  mastery. 

Mastery or personal mastery can be defined as “a set of strategies and tools to help you live and work at your peak.” In simple terms, personal mastery is the ability to implement replicable strategies to help you be your best while achieving success. 

On the way to achieving your goal, mastery becomes a by-product of consistently challenging  yourself and focusing on what is important to you. It also leads you to identify your areas of  strengths and weaknesses while compensating for them accordingly. 

It shifts your motivation from external to internal. By doing this, you ultimately build self-reliance, trust, and an unwavering dedication to your goal, through your capabilities.

According to behavioral research, those who can develop mastery in reaching their personal goals are “more effective because their satisfaction isn’t related to external indicators…mastery goals are always just beyond reach. This makes motivation over the long term easier to maintain.”

Specific Goals Enable You to Change and Grow

“Human beings are work in progress that mistakenly think they’ve finished” 

Dan GilbertAmerican social psychologist

One of the great gifts of being human is that we can change. We are not trees rooted to the  ground but are malleable beings propelled by life’s experiences. 

Attaining your goals relies on your ability to change your behavior to match the outcome. It  drives your focus towards creating and taking actionable behaviors that will bring about  transformation. 

Let’s run a simplistic comparative analysis of two women- Celine (32) and Dana (32) with a goal of financial freedom for instance. When you ask Dana how she intends to be financially free, she replies, “I don’t know, It’s just too overwhelming. I don’t know where to start.” 

This is a standard reply. You can tell from the reply that the end goal of financial freedom is clear, but the how is missing. 

Now, when you ask Celine the same question, she is ready with her answers; she knows what financial freedom looks like to her–having a college fund for her kids, retiring early at 45,  traveling for leisure, paying off her mortgage, etc. She knows how to do it–build an investment  portfolio, live with disciplined habits, adding multiple streams of income, etc.  

From this example, we can see that Celine has an actionable plan rooted in goal setting. With  clarity in her goals, she can leverage her why by using her strengths to reach her desired  outcome. 

This does not mean that Dana should be Celine 2.0. No. What this means, however, is that Dana  can be financially free by first establishing what financial freedom means to her. That is, leveraging her why to develop actionable steps to achieve the desired results.  

The great part about this is Dana doesn’t have to be anyone but herself.

How To Define a Specific Goal

There are different ways to approach how to properly define your goals. From the SMART goal framework to Objectives & Key Results, these methods help you create specific goals. Here’s a look at a framework used by popular tech companies.

Using the ‘W’ Framework

To gain clarity on your specific personal goal, adopt the W’ framework, used at AirBnB and EventBrite, and asking yourself these important questions can be helpful:

What do I want to feel accomplished?

Why is achieving this goal important to me. 

Who is/are the players involved? 

When do I want my goals to be completed?

Which necessary steps do I have to take to meet the goals? 

Without implementing the framework above, your goals may remain vague and lack substance.  

Take ‘I want to lose weight’ for instance. While there is a grounding feature to this statement, it lacks depth and doesn’t have a discernible timeline. There is nothing concrete about it.

Nonetheless, it is a great starting point. 

Using the ‘Wframework, you can create some structure and turn the vague statement “I want  to lose weight” into a personal statement that is strategic, tangible, and feasible

‘W’ Framework Example

What do I want to be accomplished?— Losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle 

Why is achieving this goal important to me?— I want to develop and live a healthier lifestyle. Losing weight and being healthy will help me feel confident and give me the energy I  need to do the things I want to do without worry. 

Who is the player involved?— Me 

When do I want to finish this goal?— Short term: 6 weeks; Long term: ongoing 

Which actions must be undertaken to meet the goals?— Portion control. Eating more  vegetables, less processed foods, good proteins, complex carbs, increased movement like HIIT workouts, lifting weights for about 20 minutes – 30 minutes, 3 – 5 days of the week. 

Putting all the information above, your Personal Mission Statement can look like this. 

‘I want to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle because I want to feel confident and have the  energy to do what I want to do without worry. In the short term, I want to lose 5 pounds in a month. To achieve my short-term goal, I will eat less processed foods and eat more  unprocessed foods that include complex carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and fruits. I will also work out at home or the gym for 20 minutes – 30 minutes, for 3 days a week to start, and then 5 days a week as I get stronger. My workouts will incorporate HIIT, cardio, weights, or yoga to build muscle and challenge myself. My long-term goal is to make this a sustainable lifestyle change.’ 

If you study the framework and the mission statement closely, you can see that action is needed and should be implemented at every step of the way. The specifics and well-defined action is the driving force behind meeting your personal goals. 

This is exceptionally powerful because you are creating your parameters and building a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on anyone else but is reliant on your personal power.

Create an Action Plan for Your Goals

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